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Public Statements

The Wind Industry and Our Veterans

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McNERNEY. This morning, I rise to talk about two issues I care very passionately about: wind energy and veterans.

Mr. Speaker, I spent more than 20 years in the wind industry as a technology development engineer. In those early days, we saw some spectacular failures and dramatic failures, but every year, we put more into the technology development. We put a little bit this year in the gear box, in the foundations. Every year, we put a little increment of improvement in the control systems, in the field testing, in the power electronics so that we understood what was going on.

Today we have an industry that is a spectacular industry. The wind turbines now are hundreds of feet tall. They are extremely reliable. They produce power for 4 to 5 cents a kilowatt hour, depending on the resource. It's been a very successful business.

In the early days, the United States of America dominated that business because of consistent policies, consistent tax policies. We could rely on the policies being there year after year. Investors came in; engineers came in. But in the early 1980s, those policies began to change, and the technology began to leave our country.

We've seen, I've seen in my career, the incentives come and go over the years. I can tell you, it's devastating to the industry. It takes years to develop the infrastructure to produce wind turbines. The bearings are 20 feet in diameter. It takes expertise. In order to get a project in, you need to get a power purchase agreement. You need to get permits. You need to get investments, and then you need to order products. The products have a 1- to 2-year lead time they're so large. We're putting a lot at risk by ending the production tax credit.

And not only that, we'll see at least 40,000 jobs lost when the production tax credit expires at the end of this year. A lot of those jobs go to United States veterans, veterans of our armed services. And I can tell you what, when soldiers are trained, they're trained on large equipment. They're trained on big projects. They're well disciplined. They're reliable. They work in very adverse conditions. And that's exactly the kind of training you need to be a windsmith and a wind turbine installer, so it's been a very good fit.

There's one company in particular, Airstreams. They train wind turbine windsmiths, and 80 percent of their graduates are veterans. They get good jobs in this country. And when the production tax credit goes away, that removes the hope of many of our veterans.

Now, the veterans of our country were soldiers and sailors. They volunteered their time for our country. They put themselves in grave danger, and they came home and found a very bad employment situation. The wind energy has been a tremendous opportunity for them, and to take this hope away from our veterans is a travesty. Eliminating those jobs for veterans is absolutely unacceptable.

Now, the production tax credit, itself, is a very effective way to produce energy. You get paid for when you deliver energy in the production tax credit. In the early days, the credits went to investments, and a lot of investments were not so good. But today, the motive is to have a very reliable, a very productive set of equipment, and that's what happens when the production tax credit is extended. It creates jobs. It helps develop the manufacturing base in this country. And I can tell you, if you want to be a great country, you have to have a big manufacturing base. Of those things that are at risk of going overseas, our manufacturing base, our engineering expertise, jobs, investment, this will be a real loss for our country. It will hurt our veterans. And the last thing it will hurt is our climate.

Now, there are people who don't believe in climate change, but I can tell you what: The evidence out there is absolutely overwhelming, whether it's biological systems migrating to higher elevations, more northern latitude, whether it's the melting of our glaciers, whether it's Hurricane Sandy, event after event shows climate change is here; it's real; it's a threat, and we need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Wind energy is a tremendous opportunity for us to do that.

So if we let the production tax credit expire, we are risking losing manufacturing. We're risking putting veterans out of work. We're risking climate change. This is something we can't afford to do as a Nation. The production tax credit is a very good investment in America and our future and our manufacturing base.

I urge all of my colleagues to consider helping to extend the production tax credits for our Nation and for our future.

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